Gustafson earns DI’s Women’s Athlete of the Year

One of the best Hawkeyes of all time, Megan Gustafson earned The Daily Iowan’s Women’s Athlete of the Year award.


Shivansh Ahuja

Iowa center Megan Gustafson lays the ball up during a women’s basketball matchup between Iowa and Rutgers at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Wednesday, January 23, 2019. The Hawkeyes defeated the Scarlet Knights, 72-66. (Shivansh Ahuja/The Daily Iowan)

Jordan Zuniga, Sports Reporter

This may come as a shock, but The Daily Iowan’s pick for Women’s Athlete of the Year is Iowa basketball’s Megan Gustafson.

Her career — both on and off the court — played a role in her selection.

As the title Athlete of the Year implies, those reasons start on the court. Gustafson was a dominant force on it. Along with breaking several major school records this season, Gustafson led the nation in points per game (27.8), field-goal percentage (69.6), total points (1,001), field goals made (412), and double-doubles (33).

All that led to her winning four major National Player of the Year awards, along with several other accolades.

What might sum up her dominance this season best is her 13 Big Ten Player of the Week honors this season — the Big Ten gave out 17 of those awards all season.

That’s dominance.

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Gustafson’s mind-boggling skill with a basketball in her hand has been well-documented, but what makes her extra special is that her talents on the court pale in comparison with what she displays as a now highly public figure off it.

Having a spotlight put on someone at such a young age usually comes along with a slew of follies that only youthfulness can produce. And if not follies, at least some sort of discipline is required to help young people in the spotlight deal with that attention.

Not for Gustafson. Iowa head coach Lisa Bluder said in a press conference in early March that Gustafson was the first player in her long tenure of coaching basketball who required “no maintenance.”

Never rejecting a picture, autograph, or even a simple conversation with a fan has been central to Gustafson’s career as a Hawkeye.

That was never truer than this season, when more people than ever wanted a piece of Gustafson, and she denied that to no one.

It stretches from a sixth-grade class unexpectedly swarming her at the State Capitol after she was honored with a resolution in the House of Representatives to the hours she has spent after home games signing, posing, and repeating, always with a smile.

Gustafson was magnetic, and instead of getting cocky or boastful, she may have grown even more humble, which, after four years of her never once taking credit for any of exceptional things she did on the court, seems impossible.

It’s no wonder the state of Iowa and perhaps the nation wanted to be like Gustafson.

RELATED: Bluder takes home DI’s Coach of the Year

When the NCAA did a story about Gustafson’s favorite drill, the two-ball Mikan Drill, several videos emerged shortly after of a plethora of aspiring basketball players also doing the drill.

While this award from the DI certainly centers on an athlete’s prowess between the lines, Gustafson probably could have won the award simply from how she carried herself as a Hawkeye.

Gustafson is unique. Just ask Hannah Stewart about her first impression of the once-shy kid from Port Wing, Wisconsin. At first, Stewart thought Gustafson was a little strange.

Strange, unique, whatever you call it, Gustafson is one-of-a-kind. Her unbelievable skill with a basketball, her unhuman-like humility, and her ability to turn a whole state into rabid women’s basketball fans, Iowa, and perhaps basketball, will never see another Megan Gustafson.